Comparing ABO data to a wider RFO sample

Thanks to Mark Pemberton, Director of the Association of British Orchestras for his steer on the sample group.

A number of things merit further exploration:

  • In the main the sample set we are analysing is made up of the larger organisations in the ABO membership but does not include the various BBC orchestras. This can be seen in the average turnover for the group – £4.75m/annum
  • Levels of RFO funding from ACE are lower for the ABO set than the average across the two RFO data sets which cover all sectors (31.6% ABO : 42.6% ACE RFO)
  • This is still true even if we only take a sample of RFO’s with a turnover of £3m-10m (31.6% ABO : 41.3% ACE RFO £3m-10m)
  • ABO members are on a par with the sample of large ACE RFO’s when we look at the additional funding from ACE (6.8% ABO : 6.2% larger RFO’s)
  • ABO members are more successful than the average for the larger RFO sample when it comes to winning grants from trusts & foundations (10.1% ABO : 4.7% larger RFO) and on a par with the wider ACE RFO sample (11.1%)
  • Even when we take into account the rest of the grant funding obtained by ABO members we still see that they are less grant dependent than the average for the RFO sample (43.1% vs. 62.5%.
  • Because very few of the ABO sample organisations have a permanent venue they do not in general derive income from other venue based activities such as the shop, café or space hire. We have therefore restricted this ABO benchmark set to non-venue based RFO’s who are members of the ABO in order to give a homogeneous set.
  • The ABO sample achieve a slightly higher proportion of their income from donations and sponsorship on all the lines we collect data on:
  • Corporate Sponsorship is on average worth some 4.4% of total income vs. the RFO samples at 3.1% (broad sample) and      2.3% (larger RFO’s)
  • Private donations are worth an average of 1.4% vs. 1.8% and 2.2% respectively for the RFO samples
  • The catch all category of ‘other sponsorship & donations’ which is usually used in cases where the source cannot be split out into the detail above sits at 6.8% for the ABO sample vs. 6.2% and 2.7% respectively for the ACE RFO samples
  • The ABO sample comes from one of the few sectors (music) which has developed income through royalties and other exploitation of intellectual property. Nevertheless the actual percentage of total income from these sources is still fairly small – 1.5% as an average across the ABO sample vs. the average across the broader RFO sample of 0.9%
  • Some product sales are achieved, mostly merchandise and CD’s and this income stream is worth 0.6% of turnover on average. This is lower than the figures for the broader RFO sample (8.5%) but this is to be expected of organisations so very focussed on delivery of live concerts and whose product sales are mostly through other distribution networks.
  • Services & consultancy is a heading used to cover activities which use the time and skills of the organisation but are not physical products – this can be education activities, consultancy, separate touring income etc. In the case of this ABO sample there is a split between a small number of organisations for whom this is a significant part of their revenue (over 20%) and the rest for whom it represents some 3-5%. The average is 20.1%. This is considerably above the averages for the RFO samples (9.8% broad RFO sample, 11.5% £3m-10m RFO’s).
  • Ticket sales for these non-venue based orchestras represents 30.8% of total turnover on average. This is higher than for either the sample of larger RFO’s (16.5%) or the wider RFO sample (11.7%). This is as high as for venue based organisations.
  • Income from these varied types of intangible assets is on average 54.8% for the ABO sample which is significantly above the averages for the two ACE RFO samples (22.4% broad sample, 23.6% £3m-10m RFO’s).
  • The ABO sample is therefore fairly unusual as it comes close to the split into even thirds that is often talked about as the goal for non-profit arts organisations. Of all the subsets studies so far only the CAV (combined artform venues) members show this ratio. The VAGA, Turning Point, ITC and ‘big 10’ theatres do not.
  • Most of the orchestras studied allocate the costs of orchestra members’ salaries as a direct cost which accounts for the much higher levels of direct cost in this model – 62.7% ABO : 42.7% wider RFO : 44.9% £3m-10m RFO. It is therefore hard to tell whether their business model is similar to or different from that of other sectors.
  • The salaries of the non-orchestra staff in the organisations come to 21.9% ABO : 34.8% wider RFO : 35.2% £3m-10m RFO but as the rest of the RFO’s allocate all their staff costs to indirect costs this makes comparison difficult
  • ABO members make a slightly higher contribution to the pensions of their staff at 2.8% ABO vs. 1.5% broader RFO set
  • Marketing costs are on a par with those across the rest of the arts at 5.6%
  • Total revenue expenditure is also on a par with that across the rest of the arts at 97.6%

Notes on the data:

  • All the data being quoted here are averages for the selected subset and are presented as a percentage of total income.
  • The organisations included in this data set are: Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, The Manchester Camerata, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sinfonietta Productions, Halle Concerts society, English Sinfonia, Britten Sinfonia, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
  • All the data presented above is the average or mean for the sample group. We could also look at minimum, maximum or the best 25% but we’ll leave that for another day!
  • Because some of the data held in the Culture Benchmark is drawn from the public report and accounts there are occasions when we simply do not have enough detail to allocate income fully. For this reason we have a section for ‘other grants’ and indeed ‘other income’ so that we can allocate them roughly if not precisely. We won’t therefore offer any analysis of these rows in the data.
  • The contents of each column cannot be added up vertically to reach 100%. For a detailed explanation of this see
  • The data above is not from matched samples so any analysis cannot be conclusive at this stage but the data can be used to raise questions for further research.
  • The data is has not been gathered to be representative of either of the RFO portfolios ie no attention has been paid to the covering of all sectors in proportion with their inclusion in the RFO portfolio. It is also possible that there is element of regional bias as we have not set up the sample group to ensure that such bias is avoided.
  • The data above is not the full data set. There is more detail in the income from intangible assets than is shown above. There is also data on both direct and indirect costs. For an overview of all the lines of data see for an example

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